May 23, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson still hitting the ball hard as average dips

Detroit — His batting average ticked down another point in Thursday’s game to .253, but the Tigers don’t see a struggling hitter in Austin Jackson.

And they didn’t see one Friday night when Jackson hit a two-run home run in the second and singled in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 7-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.

It had not been a productive stretch for the Tigers’ center fielder. He went into Friday night’s game against Texas in a 3-for-33 drought, all three of the hits being doubles.

In fact, his single in the seventh was his first simple ol’ single since May 11.

But Jackson is making more consistent contact than he usually does at this time of year, has struck out just 28 times in 150 at-bats after his first 41 games, and still is impressing manager Brad Ausmus with his approach.

“Obviously he got off to a hot start,” Ausmus said, “and he’s cooled off since in terms of numbers, but (on Wednesday) he had three good at-bats in which he hit the ball well.”

That was followed by Thursday’s 1-for-4 performance in which Jackson hit a long double, but lined out to third as one of his outs.

“He doesn’t look overmatched,” Ausmus said Thursday. “He’s just not getting hits. The bigger picture is that he’s still swinging the bat pretty well.”

Shared moments

With rookie Corey Knebel in the clubhouse for the first time Friday, it was a moment all his teammates had in common — because, of course, they all could relate to being told for the first time that they were headed to the majors.

“It feels more like last week than yesterday,” said Joe Nathan, who made his major-league debut for the San Francisco Giants in 1999.

“What a thrilling day, a thrilling time it is right now (for Knebel), but when all that dust settles, and the game starts, that’s when he’ll have to switch from ‘wow, this is really cool’ to ‘I have a job to do when that phone rings.’

“That will be a thrill in itself when his name is called.”

Torii Hunter didn’t initially believe the person who told him he was headed to the majors.

Al Newman was my Double A manager in 1997 (at New Britain, Conn),” he said. “Al was a jokester, though, so when he told me I was going up, I didn’t believe him and walked out of his office.

“But he chased me down and said he was serious. I started screaming like a little baby. I’ll never forget it, my dream had just come true. ”

More Worth

It turns out that Danny Worth, with his two strikeouts in the ninth inning Thursday, was the first position player for the Tigers to throw a full inning since Mark Koenig on Sept. 22, 1931, against the Philadelphia Athletics.

Known more for being the starting shortstop of the 1927 (Murderers’ Row) Yankees, Koenig played two years for the Tigers (1930-31) and actually pitched in five games over the two seasons, including one start.

He ended up with an 8.44 ERA and an 0-1 record.

Worth might not eventually match Koenig’s number of appearances, but he’d rather not match his ERA.

Of Worth’s inning, though, Ausmus said “I’m sure he’s been smiling for the last 24 hours.

“But that’s a no-win situation for a hitter because you’re supposed to be able to hit the guy.”

Interesting analysis

The Rangers obviously are reeling at the loss for the rest of the year of Prince Fielder, who in the process of coping with neck pain this season, said he experienced some neck stiffness last year.

But who’s to blame for no one knowing about last year’s stiffness? This is the way Evan Grant at dallasnews.com put it:

“If there is fault here,” Grant wrote, “it lies solely with Fielder for not saying anything last season. According to Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, the first time (this year) he mentioned the condition was affecting him was in early May when the Rangers went to Anaheim.

“Only then did Fielder go to the Rangers. If that’s the case, it speaks loudly about the modern mindset of players. They often won’t say anything until they talk to their own advocate first.”

tom.gage@detroitnews.com
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Austin Jackson hits a two-run home run in the second inning on Friday. / Robin Buckson / Detroit News